Minimalism versus frugality

I’ve been thinking about the idea of minimalism and the practice of frugality.

Having recently made the decision to avoid keeping things “just in case,” I’m still trying to work out the kinks in my new approach to keeping things. But, I was raised to not waste useful things and I spent a decade being a poor student, so sometimes I have a hard time getting rid of things that might be useful.

Minimalism vs. frugality are opposites and yet the same. Both promote the idea of reducing waste and the idea of being more conscientious about how we consume and about what we do with what we have. But, one focuses on the idea of keeping useful things or buying extras if something’s on sale, while the other focuses on getting rid of anything you don’t need right now and only buying what you need as you need it.

Frugality is all about thriftiness – reducing wastefulness and focusing on saving money. Some people take this to the money saving or preparedness extremes by buying multiples of things that are on sale without always thinking about whether or not the items are actually needed. Or, even if the time they took to get the coupons/sales was worth it.

Minimalism, also known as simple living, is all about voluntarily reducing possessions, refraining from consumerism, and focusing on a more intentional way of living. Some take this to extreme and almost seem to be competing to see who can own the least amount of stuff. Worse, there are some people who are so dedicated to only owning what is needed right now that they throw away things that will have to be repurchased later.

There are a lot of people who approach these ideas carefully and have been able to apply them to their lives without going to extremes. And, though they seem very different, you can be frugal and minimalist at the same time. The key is to be thoughtful – don’t blindly do something because a lifestyle philosophy tells you to do it. Instead, consider the best option for your needs and values.

As part of my efforts to embrace a simple living lifestyle, I decided to get rid of as many “just in case” items as possible. Because of this, I have a whole lot of empty boxes that used to hold extra blankets, supplies for crafts I abandoned, kitchen things I never used, etc. From a minimalist perspective, I should get rid of these boxes as I don’t need them right now. But, as someone trying to live frugally, I’m going to keep most of them because they’re an appropriate size for moving and I have an empty closet where they can be stored.

Another example would be buying sale items with consideration. I love peanut butter, but I don’t eat enough of it to be able to store a back-up bottle – by the time I open it, it will be expired (I prefer natural peanut butter, which has a shorter shelf life). But, toilet paper doesn’t go bad, so if I happen to notice that it’s on sale, I will happily buy as much as I have room for to save money in the long term.

It’s all about balance and recognizing that you don’t have to commit 100% to any particular lifestyle.

I know, I know. Many people tell you that you aren’t a real [insert label here] unless you commit 100%. Yes, there are some communities that require full devotion to their ideas before they’ll let you be accepted, but maybe you don’t need them. Instead, have the courage to live the best life you can, even if that means that you’re not “perfect” or don’t belong to a stringent community of fellow devotees.

By allowing myself to dissect new ideas and consider what I do or do not agree with, I’ve found that many things I’ve chosen to do have common themes and complement each other (for example: practices from both the minimalist and the frugal lifestyle are doing a wonderful job of helping me be a bit more environmentally friendly).

Just focus on being conformable with your choices and allowing yourself to grow and move towards your ideal over time.

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5 Responses to Minimalism versus frugality

  1. suburbanlife says:

    Part of the difficulty I see arising from blogs on minimalism and simplicity blogs is that one is able to purchase a ‘lifestyle’, or be able to align oneself with various stances of prescriptive behaviour. I am 70 years old and still very much live like a student, indeed, I consider myself a student forever. s such I live with the tools necessary for what I do in life, not necessarily the most up to date tools, but those which fulfill their purpose directly, simply and well. If i want to make bread, I make it by hand, the long way. If I want to make dolmathes I go out to the grape arbour, pick grape leaves, process them, use some for making dolmas, and freeze the rest for later cooking sessions. For writing, I use lined school notebooks and write long-hand, and use the computer for revising and editing texts, because it is much more efficient than cutting and pasting by hand. Life is good! And, more so because I don’t engage in comparison games. G

    Liked by 1 person

    • Maybe that’s a big part of the problem – the idea that you can purchase a lifestyle. I much prefer the kind of life where I can pick and choose the things that both work best for me and align with my chosen values.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Geen Geenie says:

    It’s funny you should be writing about this now- we must be communicating in our dreams subconsciously or something because we are often on the same page! I’ve been watching lots of Youtube videos recently about ‘minimalism’, and it sure is trendy at the moment.
    For some it is definitely about reducing waste and resisting consumerism, while for other’s I’ve noticed its increasingly about reducing what you own to enable yourself to travel light and not put down any roots. (While your example of frugalism bulk buying is in direct opposition to this.) I’ve even seen minimalism ‘get rid of what ever doesn’t serve you’ being adapted for relationships and heading dangerously close to narcissism imho. The connection between minimalism and commitment is an intriguing one- getting rid of your belongs so that they can not tie you down or hold any power over you is potent.
    Suffice to say, that I too have been struggling with my belongings and how i feel about them. I have a habit of stockpiling and/or collecting – it’s feast or famine, like I’m afraid I will run out of the things i like. Or I’ve held on to things like clothes and arts and crafts supplies that no longer reflect who i am and what I want to do in my life- getting rid of items like these can be refreshing and freeing I think. Even if I find the urge to throw things away/donate conflicting at times (i either want to do it too much or too little). I have been doing a gradual wardrobe clear out that has been great for my mental health. But I haven’t quite found the happy medium yet. I think maybe your attitude of moderation in adopting these ‘lifestyles’ is key! bx


    • I hadn’t really thought about minimalism and relationships, but I think it would be easy for people to use minimalism as a means or excuse to avoid relationships. I suppose the same can be true of many things. But, it begs the question: why are people all pushing each other away?

      I agree that the connection between minimalism and commitment is an intriguing one. I think that the idea of things holding power over us is scary, but true. Practicing letting go allowed me to let go of “family heirlooms” that I had kept only out of obligation, but that my brother didn’t want either. But, finding that balance is a challenge and I think the happy medium will shift from year to year simply because our lives shift.

      Art and craft supplies are the hardest. I want to keep it all and trash it all. The few things I regret getting rid of in January are a few small art/craft supplies that I still kind of want to use.

      I hope you’re able to find your happy medium, or at least one that works for you for the time being. :)

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Get rid of things with purpose, not frustration | Periwinkle playground

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